Despite fears of cyber attacks on voting machines, the U.S. presidential election was not hacked—at least not in the traditional sense.
Even so, many of the biggest political stories this year revolved around computers, emails, and espionage. A vindictive ex-KGB strongman and his spies are said to have stolen and leaked political party and campaign emails. An anti-secrecy activist made public troves of purloined documents. A law enforcement official shook up the election by reopening—and reclosing—an investigation into one candidate’s correspondences. A disgraced politician who can’t seem to keep his digital communications out of the spotlight, got caught sexting with a minor. And, of course, there’s that home email server.
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As the soon-to-be-inaugurated commander-in-chief might say: The cyber was YUGE! this election.
So what will the next president’s cybersecurity policy involve? Well, Donald Trump has proven to be utterly unpredictable. During the campaign, he proposed a boycott of Apple products during the tech giant’s showdown with the F.B.I. over iPhone encryption earlier this year. He encouraged Russia, perhaps sarcastically, to find Hillary Clinton’s 30,000 missing emails from her private server. And he frequently downplayed top intelligence officials’ conclusions about Kremlin-sponsored influence during the campaign season.
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Whatever the case, Trump’s campaign website reveals few specifics related to cybersecurity other than demanding a “review of all U.S. cyber defenses and vulnerabilities” and then soliciting recommendations to fix them. One thing is certain though: It’s unlikely that the president-elect will retaliate against foreign spies for meddling in the democratic process now that he’s clinched the executive office.
Trump’s success may embolden foreign powers to continue hacking and leaking, both here and abroad. And it sets a worrisome precedent that will be hard to defend against in future elections.